With the Cleveland Indians basically treading water right now, hovering right around the .500 mark for the season, the balance of the schedule has become important for other reasons. Mostly, it is a chance for a bunch of unproven players to make their mark and get a leg up on a roster spot in 2022.
Who is taking advantage of the opportunity? We wouldn’t completely rule out anyone is has struggled, but certainly there are players seizing the moment.
Bradley Zimmer is one of them. The 28-year-old former first round draft pick has certainly done his part to say don’t forget about me. He’s hit .284 with 5 HR and an 847 OPS since the All Star break. He’s still striking out a lot (30 times in his last 87 at bats), but is making an impact at the plate and the glove, mostly playing RF since Myles Straw was acquired.
Speaking of Straw, he’s made a good impression since his arrival in town, batting .289 with a .365 on base percentage in a Tribe uniform. Frankly, we would like to see him (and his teammates who have speed) start running more often. And his defense has been excellent in CF.
We kind of think of Ernie Clement as a utility man type, able to play all the infield spots, and play them well. He’s made a number of outstanding plays at third already this season. At the plate, he’s been okay perhaps some people have expected, hitting .250, including a couple of home runs. He’s earning the trust of the coaching staff and getting more playing time.
When Daniel Johnson was sent back to AAA a couple of weeks ago, we felt it was strange because he was actually starting the swing the bat much better. Since the break, he’s gone 10 for 32 with three dingers, meaning before the 2 for 4 Tuesday, he was 8 for 28 before he was sent down. He needs to be more selective, walking only once, but it appears he’s starting to get comfortable in The Show.
As for the players who have not yet taken the bull by the horns, Oscar Mercado continues to struggle, batting just .191 (550 OPS). The outfielder is walking more (11 times vs. 13 K’s in 89 at bats), but he’s not getting hits. His defense has been very good, but he needs to start raising his on base percentage, which sits at .280.
Owen Miller’s minor league numbers are impressive (.300 lifetime batting average and over 800 OPS), and we still believe he will hit at the major league level, but he continues to struggle, hitting .190 (578 OPS) in the second half. He is being more patient at the plate, and perhaps that is a portend he is feeling more at ease in the majors.
Bobby Bradley burst into the big leagues this season with a bang, but the slumps associated with someone who strikes out as much as he has have cropped up. Currently out with the knee injury, the slugger has gone 7 for 46 since the break, striking out 26 times vs. five walks. Power or no, you can’t earn regular playing time with that kind of production.
Andres Gimenez joined the team just a couple of weeks ago, but hasn’t shown much of a difference in his production, going just 4 for 24 since his recall. He has walked six times vs. one strikeout, so that is a good sign for him.
The opportunity to stake a claim to be a Guardian is right there for these players. Can they close the season doing enough that the front office wants to see more?